How can my organisation offer (online) higher education in the Netherlands
There are different ways be active as an organisation offering higher education in the Netherlands. They vary in complexity and duration of procedure. They also lead to a different (legal) status of your organisation and different types of diplomas you can issue in the Netherlands. The three possibilities to offer (online) higher education in the Netherlands are, to issue (1) Dutch Degrees, (2) foreign degrees or (3) no degrees.
With the phrase degree the Inspectorate of Education means ‘associate degree’, ‘bachelor’, ‘master’ (including ‘MBA’) and ‘doctor (including ‘DBA’). The use of these phrases, (singular, in abbreviations or in combination with other terms), and of the names ‘university’ and ‘university of applied sciences’, is legally protected by law, the Dutch Higher Education Act (Wet op hoger onderwijs en wetenschappelijk onderzoek, WHW). This means these phrases can only be used under certain conditions. This applies to all kinds of communication, names of programmes and issued certificates.
The three ways to offer higher education in the Netherlands more explained:
1. Dutch degrees: Organisations wishing to offer and issue Dutch degrees – that is, degrees issued based on the Dutch Higher Education act – have to be authorised by the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science. This means your organisation has to apply for permission at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. This permission can be granted as the following steps are taken:
- a) The course you want to offer in the Netherlands is officially accredited by de NVAO (Nederlands-Vlaamse Accreditatie Organisatie; the Dutch accreditation organisation for higher education).
- b) Your organisation is reviewed by the Dutch Inspectorate of Education with a positive outcome. In this process we check compliance and whether the financial and administrative continuity of your organisation is sufficiently safeguarded.
These two steps include submitting the necessary (financial) information about your organisation. Because the accreditation by the NVAO includes an evaluation of the ‘proven quality’ of a program, the entire programme must have been provided in the Netherlands at least once recently (as a non-degree course) and must have produced graduates (full cycle requirement) before starting the abovementioned procedures.
Until the permission to issue Dutch degrees is obtained from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, you must refrain from using the phrases ‘associate degree’, ‘bachelor’, ‘master’ (including ‘MBA’) and ‘university of applied sciences’ (or abbreviations thereof) in conjunction with the concerning courses. Note that you can never become a Dutch university and correspondingly cannot issue Dutch doctoral degrees.
2. Foreign degrees: Organisation wishing to offer and issue foreign degrees in the Netherlands (associate degree, bachelor, masters, doctor) to students who follow your courses (online), need to present us with an accreditation from a foreign accreditation agency and a foreign legal regulation which states that your organisation is allowed to grant these degrees. Furthermore, it must be clear to students that the degree they will receive, or have received, is not a Dutch degree based on the Dutch Higher Education Act. You must mention the above three elements explicitly in your communication (including website) to the students and it must be included on the diplomas. Use of the name ‘university’ or ‘university of applied sciences’ by your organisation is possible under specific conditions detailed in articles 1.22 and 1.23 of the Dutch Higher Education Act.
3. No degrees: Organisations can offer courses without following any of the above mentioned procedures / regulations (1 and 2) as long as they do not offer any degree programs in the Netherlands. This also means refraining from using the phrases ‘associate degree’, ‘bachelor’, ‘master’ (including ‘MBA’), or ‘doctor’ (including DBA). In your communication (including websites) to students it must be explicitly communicated that students are not able to obtain a degree, Dutch or otherwise, by following your courses. You cannot use the name ‘university’ (or abbreviations with ‘U’) in conjunction with these courses. Use of the name ‘university of applied sciences’ by your organisation is possible under specific conditions detailed in articles 1.23 of the Dutch Higher Education Act.